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Back to School
Life as a Mature Student
Member Name: lwperkins
Life as a Mature Student
Date: 16/04/03, updated on 16/04/03 (412 review reads)
Disadvantages: Lack of Money
Ive never managed to actually stick at anything for very long. I have a CV as long as my arm because I get bored in jobs really quickly. Although Ive travelled a lot and had loads of interesting experiences, I always felt that something was missing.
I knew deep down what it was, it just took me until last year to finally admit it to myself. I felt I'd missed out not going to university.
Which is how last September, aged 27, I found myself armed with freshly sharpened pencils and a new satchel and heading back to school.
Going to university as a mature student has been one of the biggest and scariest experiences of my life and I just wanted to share my thoughts because I really wish that I had had someone to tell me it was going to be alright when I started applying to university. If reading this helps just one person who is undecided about becoming a mature student to make the decision then I shall be delighted.
For several years I had sent off for the university application forms and then conveniently forgotten about them until it was too late to apply. It wasnt that I didnt want to go, I desperately did, but the idea of UNIVERSITY left me horror struck with fear.
I was very lucky because I received a lot of support and encouragement from my family and my boyfriend, and without them I don?t think I would have ever actually applied.
I applied to six establishments in a quite haphazard manner, I was working full time and really didnt have the time or the inclination to go visiting universities. With hindsight, I wish I had, so my advice would be to make time to actually see the place where you are going to be spending a great deal of your time for the next few years.
I had never counted on being rejected from any of them; I always thought that universities were willing to welcome mature students with open arms. This I found was a very na´ve outlook. Mature students get judged on merits and criteria just
as every other applicant does, so its very important to fill your application form in carefully and thoughtfully. When I received my first rejection, I cried. It made me feel absolutely worthless, but yet again the support of my family got me through it. One rejection letter I received was incredibly nasty and basically told me in no uncertain terms that I was too old to be considered. I was also rejected for one establishment because I had applied to study French and although I had been living in France for several years, my A-Level in French was at a poor grade so I was instantly and unceremoniously dismissed as a candidate without even being given the chance to prove myself.
Just as I?d given up all hope, I was accepted to all 3 of my final choices. The university I had had my heart set on had rejected me, so I had to make quite a difficult choice but I think it was the right one in the end.
On my first day at university I was terrified. I still hadnt been to visit it because I had been so busy finishing my job and trying (fairly unsuccessfully) to sort out my finances and find a place to live. So my first memories of university life include wandering around terrified whilst trying to appear outwardly calm, cool and collected. I dont think I fooled anyone.
My biggest fear was that I was going to be the oldest person there and that no one would speak to me for the next 3 years. That seems quite laughable now because there were loads of other mature students, but at the time I was stepping into the unknown.
Having a group of other mature students has been brilliant because we have provided a mini support network for each other, but no one treats us any differently, although I think if we suddenly decided to embark on drinking binges like 'proper students' it would be met with a few raised eyebrows!!
My university have been excellent in providing support for my needs and those of other mature students. I didnt even
realise until January that there was a Student Support team available, but I would advise anyone embarking on mature student life to seek out their university Student Support at the earliest possible opportunity. Having support of any kind is really important and my Student Support team have provided me with all kinds of useful (and some admittedly quite useless) information.
I dont live in Halls of Residence and they have provided me a great deal of information about benefits I can receive and where to go in the future for help.
Some universities have really good mature student facilities with on line forums and social events. We are working on getting a more structured mature student support group at my uni, but its still quite a young establishment and of course these things take time.
For me, money (or lack of) has been a huge hurdle. Both my boyfriend and I are students and so we live on our student grants, having long since spent any savings we might have had. I tried to continue working full time but it was only a matter of weeks before I found myself a gibbering wreck! I came out of that experience a wiser (but poorer) person. To go from having a well paid job and plenty of money to being, as my brother kindly terms it 'student scum' is quite an eye opener.
The funniest thing I have found is when my family send me food parcels (always gratefully received) they always seem to contain 'student food' - Im now a Pot Noodle connoisseur! Apparently when you start to gain an education you lose the ability to cook 'proper food.'
Ive really loved studying and I cant believe how much Ive learned. Writing my first essay was horrible, but the sense of achievement when I handed it in was enormous. I have had plenty of down times and times when Ive felt I couldnt cope or that I was the only person in the world who didnt understand what the lecturer was talking about, but Im learning to play up my strengths and play do
wn my weaknesses and just like everybody else, I get by. It has been a massive learning curve in every aspect, from academic learning to learning about myself (sorry if that sounds cheesy, but its true!) Ive discovered a side of me I never knew existed and a resilience Im very proud of.
I would recommend a return to education to anyone. It is a struggle, but its worth it and hopefully when I finally achieve my degree, I will be able to look forward to finding a job that will be a challenge to me.
* Thank you for reading this op and indulging me in my ramblings. I would like to dedicate it to my Godmother who died last month. My going to university meant so much to her and she was so proud of me. Her memory will provide me with the dedication to see it through to the end and when I finally get my degree, I will feel like although she can?t be with me she will be smiling down on me. *